Georgina Craig discusses the important role video group clinics (VGCs) play in helping people with long-term health issues to take control of their health and wellbeing
At Redmoor-ELC, our focus is on person-centred digital care. As leaders in the development of VGCs, we believe that when people are supported and empowered to manage their long-term health issues in a group clinic setting, they gain confidence and take control of their own health.
The value of VGCs at the heart of digital healthcare
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the development of new digital patient care pathways and ways of working, and shown just how agile and innovative primary care is. Primary care networks (PCNs) have really proved their worth and by embracing a culture of continuous improvement and adopting new ways of delivering patient care, practices and clinicians have proved they can rapidly innovate and bring about sustainable change.
One of these new ways of working is VGCs – a deeply person-centred innovation, which, since April 2020, Redmoor-ELC has developed at pace during the pandemic to help build primary care team resilience and support continuity of care for people who are at high risk or living with chronic health conditions. We are currently supporting some 500 ‘Sentinel’ GP practices in England with best practice advice, training and the necessary technical support to get them started in running this secure and safe remote care model, and very soon, we will be building on this experience to roll out the VGC model across Wales in primary, community and outpatient settings.
Early in the COVID-19 crisis, GP practices across England started to make remote consultations the norm. Redmoor-ELC already had plans to wok with NHSEI to scope and test the VGC model in a handful of GP practices. Recognising that the pandemic would drive the need for video based care, NHSEI decided to accelerate the programme and we began developing the VGC Sentinel programme for General Practice in England.
Throughout these exceedingly difficult months, primary care teams at the participating Sentinel practices have embraced and driven the expansion of this new care pathway, and experienced first-hand the benefit and value in offering this safe and secure way to continue to support their patients and deliver planned clinical care.
VGCs are bringing patients with similar clinical needs together via video to experience high quality support and care from a clinician. VGCs are building community connections and personal resilience. VGCs are helping clinicians to deliver QOF and annual health checks across a range of long term conditions; especially those where lifestyle change is critical to progress.
Importantly, VGCs are also proving to be a valuable tool for workforce development, providing opportunities for all primary care colleagues to expand and grow their digital consulting skills.
VGCs allow a variety of health professionals to spend longer with patients whilst seeing more patients, including: GPs, general practice nurses, social prescribers, clinical pharmacists and first contact physiotherapists who are supported by social prescribers, health coaches, and practice administrators as VGC technical facilitators who make sure that the VGC session runs smoothly and provides a good experience for patients.
As primary care clinicians begin to master VGCs, they are reporting that this remote care model saves time compared to one to one remote consultations, and allows them to review up to eight people in less than an hour of clinic time.
Initial feedback from the programme indicates that the VGCs offer comparable benefits to face to face group clinics, and both clinicians and patients are finding VGCs to be an easy-to-use, secure, often more convenient way to see their clinician, which reduces the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
On our website, you can listen to compelling case studies from a variety of primary care professionals, discussing the value and benefits that VGCs bring to patient care especially for management of chronic long-term conditions such as asthma, diabetes and COPD.
While VGCs will never replace one to one appointments, they are a convenient, person-centred option for patients; many of whom deeply value the opportunity to meet and learn from others in the same situation, spend more time with their clinician and connect with like-minded people in their community who share their condition.
Clinicians around the UK are currently reporting that there are growing numbers of people who, having suffered from Covid-19, are now living through a long recovery, and experiencing a syndrome being called ‘Long Covid’. Delivering VGCs for this group provides the opportunity for both patients and clinicians to accelerate their understanding of this condition and support patients to cope and hopefully recover more quickly.
The world will never be the same. Everyone has had to embrace virtual working, and the NHS is no different. Remote and virtual consultations are here to stay beyond the pandemic. And as long as there is COVID-19 in the community, VGCs will be vital to ensure that communities can connect and support each other to keep well. They have proven their worth amongst those who have experienced their benefits. There is little doubt - VGCs will continue in the post-COVID recovery period and beyond and help ensure that our NHS becomes even more person-centred.